Artistic Pursuits After Aging

He sat down at the piano. What left him breathless was the way his fingers reached, without pain, and found where they were ready. This wasn’t muscle memory; this was revitalized memory stores in his brain finding each other in perfect unison. You played yesterday, they said, and the day before, and what you remember of sore hands and forgetting notes and dusty piano benches and the old folks home where they wouldn’t let you sit at the piano because the sound was appalling and your loud anguish even worse, all that was yesterday. Choose to forget. You’re young again.

She will paint today. She never stopped painting. The watercolors and crayons were there for her as early as she can remember, pens and pencils, the easy-clean paints for her bedrooms, the pads of paper and easels, then in high school canvas, frames, and gallons of oil paints for which she spent afternoons and summers working at the craft store, new materials and substrates and spaces in college, her life’s work grabbing everything and coming back, always, to oil painting.

She will paint her last painting today. Tomorrow she bids adieu to painting. No room here in her second life.

He would have danced if he could have, if he had thought of it, if he had been sure his father wouldn’t have beat the movement out of him. It never crossed his mind then. Not when he was young and growing and his father kept him rough and tumble, not one to see how dance was tumble and rough, only sissy. It would not have crossed his father’s mind that his son would have asked. It crossed neither of their minds to challenge what neither of them knew without any challenge.

So he’s standing inside the studio door. Afraid.

He’s going on 95 and the span contains the leaves of his family tree: his three children, a dozen grandchildren, and ever more great-grandchildren aiming like branches in his orchards for even more fruit. The patriarch oversees the widening of his branch like a bird in a cage oversees its skies.

On news there’s a new option, he feels new to decision, to knowing himself, to wondering when he will be brand new again. New and bold to ask: Isn’t there a little something more technology can do for me?

Medicine say yes. She’s going on 95 and it’s time.

Their relationship didn’t last. It was built out of metal, reinforced with stone. Whenever cracks appeared they patched with glue, heat, concrete, counseling, twigs, mudslinging, spit, cum, and sorry. What they chiseled together stood guard to perfect union, posed them out of ruby together on a pedestal for their 40-year anniversary, as if mining for ever more precious stones, while every admirer wore their own paper, skins, and fabrics, and worried about clay.

When they were young again, they weren’t the same young from where they started. They crumbled. They stepped quietly out of the rubble and each other’s sight.

You sing her lullabies. They are meant to calm her. You. She’s just newborn. These first twenty-five years are high pitched. Hush now, it’s hard to hear her when she’s adult. Like you. As old as you appear. As old as either of you will ever appear.

Cradles no longer fall for they have little time to rock.

How long are you a parent? Will she forget your tune? How short the time until brownian motion leaves you distant relatives. Stranger, after so many melodies and empires fall, do you remember exactly who were your parents?

You sing your goodbyes.

StoryADay May 2016 Day 17

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.